The recent elections held in Maseno University mirrored the Kenyan national elections in that, they were heavily influenced by tribal alliances. The KKK versus luo alignment has become enshrined in Maseno university politics. Not only are the two different sides completely entrenched in their tribal trenches, but they are financially sponsoring candidates now. Where are we headed to as a university?
Kenyan national politics has always been divided at along ethnic lines since independence, that’s the only way that we seem to know to compete for political positions. This has brought about very sad consequences for our country, such as political violence, tribalism, nepotism, corruption and ethnic divisions. Our university seems to be headed down a similar path, whereby compromise, judging candidates according to their abilities and merit solely is not part of the agenda, rather the top down system where the voters are used as rubber stamps to assent the decision made by the rich and mighty “elders” in the school.
But where will this take us as a university in the long run? Poorer leadership, the students having a smaller voice in their choice for leadership, and tribal divisions in our university. Many political analysts will tell u that there is no ideological backing behind any of our national politicians’ manifestoes and policies. This has been replicated in our university’s politics too.
There was not much difference between the political aspirants’ policies in the September 14th elections in Maseno. The repairing of street lights, cheaper food in the mace, and installation of generators are policies that have been recycled down the years, and one cannot easily differentiate candidates according to their policies alone. Some of the methods the students use instead are course loyalties, voting in their friends and relatives, and voting for their tribesmen. Hence you will find a voter (mostly the third years who are the majority of candidates in SOMU elections) voting in the most unqualified of candidates just because they share the same course. The fourth years mostly do not bother voting since it is unheard of for one of them to vie for a seat. They are mostly involved in the tribal alliances and financing of candidates, as well as organizing their tribesmen to step down when two or more are vying for the same seat.
But why is it so hard for politics to be based along ideological or even economic classes in African politics? Some people suggest that the tribal identity that cuts vertically across the populations of many an African country is deeper than the economic differences that divide Africans vertically. Hence politicians find it easier to rally support from their ethnic groups than economic class in Africa. Tribalism is thus a monster that would seem to be too large to slay in Africa, and by extension Maseno University. The taming of this monster is thus the more realistic choice.
But how does one go about taming tribalism then? Consocialism is a method that has been used elsewhere in countries such as Belgium and Lebanon, that have ethnic or in the case of Lebanon, religious differences too deep to ignore in political competition. Consocialism is simply power sharing that is enshrined in the constitution. In such case, all the ethnic or religious groupings are ensured of seats in the national executive, legislative and judiciary. This makes it unnecessary to push the electorate to vote for people of their ethnic group. For example, the tribes that fail to get any seats in the SOMU executive may be nominated into the organization.
Burundi is a country that has implemented this system of governance in recent years. It may seem to be a radical idea at best or a defeatist one at worst, but it is something that should be considered. Blaming tribalism while offering no solutions to combat the issue, except cheap sloganeering and complaining has not worked for anyone in Kenya since independence.